BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC/NEW YORK, MARCH 7, 2014—The escalation of violence in Central African Republic (CAR), primarily in the north of the country, is undermining vital humanitarian assistance for people already suffering from limited access to aid, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today.
The presence of fugitive armed groups and resulting increased chaos across the country, including in the capital of Bangui, have left communities vulnerable to extreme violence. International humanitarian organizations, including MSF, have also been subject to robberies and looting. MSF has repeatedly called on UN Security Council member states and donor countries to ensure the protection of civilians in CAR and to urgently scale up much-needed humanitarian assistance.
"We are witnessing the consequence of the lack of protection of people in CAR, with civilians being hunted down and killed, and hundreds of thousands of displaced people and refugees without adequate assistance," said Sylvain Groulx, MSF head of mission in CAR.
MSF teams have suffered numerous armed intrusions and robberies in the towns of Boguila, Kabo, and Ndele and inside a camp where tens of thousands of people are taking refuge at Mpoko International Airport in Bangui. On March 1 and 2, MSF teams experienced four such serious incidents. In Kabo, MSF was forced to reduce its medical activities as a result, leaving 50,000 people even more vulnerable.
"Targeting humanitarian organizations and their staff is unacceptable and impedes the support they provide the population,” said Groulx. “The reduction of the MSF medical activities in Kabo has disastrous consequences for tens of thousands of people, while their needs remain enormous."
MSF has managed the hospital in Kabo since 2006 and supports three health posts on the outskirts of the town, including Moyenne Sido, where many people escaping violence have fled. Others seek refuge just across the border in Chad. In 2013, MSF carried out more than 100,000 consultations at the Kabo hospital and its health posts, 44 percent of which were related to malaria, the leading cause of death in CAR. The medical assistance provided by MSF teams there is crucial.
Even before the recent crisis, the people of CAR already suffered the consequences of a severe lack of health care, with many health facilities barely operational. The escalation of violence has compounded the problem since nearly 20 percent of the population has fled their homes, and the international aid effort remains grossly insufficient.
Despite regular violent attacks taking place close to, and even inside hospitals, MSF teams have been able to provide a reasonable level of medical care. But today, the impunity of armed groups and the uncontrollable cycle of violence is endangering the population and threatening the delivery of humanitarian aid.
"We call on armed groups to stop targeting civilians and to respect our medical mission so that we can continue to deliver lifesaving medical care," said Groulx. "Humanitarian organizations must be able to work freely and without hindrance."
MSF has been working in CAR since 1997, and now runs seven regular projects (Batangafo, Carnot, Kabo, Ndélé, Paoua, Bria, and Zémio) and eight emergency projects (Bangui, Berbérati, Bouar, Boguila, Bossangoa, Bouca, Bangassou, and mobile clinics in the northwest). MSF has more than 240 international staff and 2,000 local staff working in the country. Additional MSF teams are assisting refugees from CAR in Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Republic of Congo.